One down, nine to go: this weekend, NASCAR's Chase for the Sprint Cup heads to New England and New Hampshire Motor Speedway, a 1.058-mile track in Loudon that can boast first-time NASCAR Cup Series winners in Joe Nemechek (1999), Ryan Newman (2002), Clint Bowyer (2007) and Joey Logano (2009). Who has what it takes in the Chase to get around NHMS - and who should hang it up? See which drivers are hot or not following race one of the Chase.
Tony Stewart - HOT - "Smoke" didn't win the first race of the Chase this season, but his sixth-place finish from 29th starting position made him one of the top movers of the race. At New Hampshire, Stewart has three wins and 16 total top 10s in 27 races. He's third in points right now, eight points out of the lead.
Brad Keselowski - HOT - Keselowski won his first-career Chase race at Chicagoland last weekend and sits atop the points standings, leading the charts for the first time ever. At New Hampshire, he's got three top 10s in six races, including a fifth-place finish last July.
Jimmie Johnson - HOT - "Five-Time" led 176 laps at Chicagoland before losing the top spot to Keselowski following a pit stop. Still, a second-place finish puts him just three points back of Keselowski in points. Johnson has three wins and 14 total top 10 finishes in 21 races at NHMS.
Kasey Kahne - HOT - Kahne jumped from Wild Card to contender with his third-place finish at Chicagoland, one of three drivers tied for fourth place just 15 points behind Keselowski. He has a win and seven total top 10s at NHMS, the win coming this past July.
Denny Hamlin - LUKEWARM - Hamlin dropped from the top spot to fourth in points, tied with Kahne and Clint Bowyer at 15 points back. After spending most of the race in the top 10, a pit miscue cost Hamlin a good finish, relegating him to 16th place after running out of gas with just two laps left. Hamlin has one win and nine total top 10s in 13 races at NHMS, and has an average finish of 8.4 - the best average of current drivers.
Jeff Gordon - NOT - Gordon hit the wall at Chicagoland and finished 35th - he's already a whole race behind Keselowski in points (47); after his valiant effort to get into the Chase, he may be the first driver out of it...but he already proved fans wrong once this year by making the Chase. At New Hampshire, Gordon has three wins and 20 total top 10 finishes in 35 races, making him one of four drivers who have competed in all the races at NHMS.
Source: "Statistical Advance: Analyzing the Sylvania 300," NASCAR Media, September 17, 2012
Paula is a long-time NASCAR fan who also covers the sport at Examiner.com and Skirts & Scuffs.
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